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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 27, 2009
2:10 PM

CONTACT: US Senator Russ Feingold

Zach Lowe (202) 224-8657

Feingold, Conyers Continue Effort to Restore Voting Rights for Millions of Americans

WASHINGTON - July 27 - U.S. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) are continuing their effort to restore voting rights for million of Americans.  Feingold and Conyers reintroduced the Democracy Restoration Act, legislation that would reinstate the right to vote in federal elections for millions of Americans with a conviction in their past who are out of prison, living in the community.  In America today, more than five million citizens are unable to vote due a felony conviction, nearly three-quarters of whom are no longer in prison.  Feingold and Conyers' bill would allow these Americans to exercise their right to vote if they are no longer incarcerated.

"Voting helps to build a sense of civic responsibility and commitment to community; denying this fundamental right does nothing to help people with a conviction in their past become better citizens," Senator Feingold said.  "The expansion of voting rights to the poor, women, minorities and young people is one of the greatest stories in our country's history.  We should continue this legacy by expanding the right to vote to those who have fully paid their debt to society."

"There is a growing nationwide movement to restore voting rights to people who are out of prison, living in the community.  Those calling for change include law enforcement officers, religious leaders and elections officials," said Erika Wood, Director of the Right to Vote Project at the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University.  "The Democracy Restoration Act will eliminate the last blanket barrier to the franchise in our country."

Feingold and Conyers' bill builds on a growing enfranchisement movement.  In the last decade, 20 states have reformed their laws to expand the franchise or ease voting rights restoration procedures.  Most recently, the state of Washington enacted a law easing the restoration of voting rights for people who are no longer in custody.  According to the Brennan Center for Justice and the Sentencing Project, 5.3 million American citizens are not allowed to vote because of a felony conviction. Nearly four million people of them are no longer, or never were, in prison, and approximately two million have completed their entire sentence, including probation and parole.

An electronic copy of this press release is available here: http://feingold.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=316228

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